From the enemy's camp:
By Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday, October 17, 2008 "Ring the alarm ... maybe":
The Capitals were supposed to be what the Penguins needed. They have long been a punching bag for the Penguins. It was hoped they'd be the antidote for all that ailed the team. And for the better part of two periods, the Capitals proved to be just that. The Penguins led, 2-0, after one period and 3-0 late in the second.
Maybe the Penguins thought they were playing the old Capitals, the team they had so long dominated -- going 10-1-1 against them in the previous 12 games -- and not the young, skilled unit that has been drawing praise from all over the league.
No less an authority than NBC analyst Pierre McGuire, a former Penguins assistant coach, told The Washington Post this:
"This team is loaded. Washington is one of the few teams in the league that can rival Pittsburgh in the way of young star power."
Even Sidney Crosby gave the Capitals a nod.
"They have a deep team, a lot of skill, a lot of guys who can beat you. They've really established themselves as a hard-working team, a competitive team. We have a similar look, with some young guys who have done well early on."
They had all that and more as they took the game to the Penguins and left them embarrassed and beaten in a shocking third period.
What was alarming about the defeat was that the Capitals didn't get a point from Alex Ovechkin, the best goal-scorer in the NHL. Ovechkin got five shots on goal, only two in the first two periods.
What was even more alarming was that the Penguins collapsed in the third period, being outshot, 21-6, and that after dominating the Capitals in the first two periods, outshooting them, 20-9.
Sam Kasan, penguins.nhl.com:
Malkin succeeded in personally bettering Ovechkin by scoring three points (1G-2A) while the Washington sniper finished scoreless. Malkin wasn't happy about the moral victory, as displayed by his defeated look in the locker room after the game. Ovechkin’s team won the game and that’s the bottom line.
Sam Kasan, penguins.nhl.com, In-game Blog:
8:57 PM EST: Ovechkin is visibly upset now. He's yelling and throwing body checks like crazy. He's getting into everyone's face. The Penguins and Capitals are starting to develop a healthy dislike of each other. Malkin and Ovechkin continue their hated rivalry with a few more shots at each other. So far, Malkin is up three points (1G-2A) to Ovechkin's zero.
7:57 PM EST: So far Washington has controlled the play, logging a lot of ice time in the Penguins zone. The Capitals have looked sharp, making hard passes and getting in good position for opportunities. Alexander Semin just took a penalty, he go to the box, and he feel shame.
By Rob Rossi, PittsburghLive, Oct. 17, 2008:
There were no answers to be found inside the Penguins' dressing room Thursday after 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals at Mellon Arena.
Not one player could explain the club's complete collapse -- blowing a three-goal lead with 38 minutes remaining, getting outshot, 21-6, in the third period -- against a Capitals' team that appeared lifeless early.
"It can't happen," said captain Sidney Crosby, who has yet to score a goal in five games. "We gave it back to them in the third. We didn't make them earn it. We tried to play too passive, and we didn't do little things that it takes to win hockey games.
"We learned a tough lesson."
Malkin, who recorded three points, had no clue why the Penguins played a "bad system" in the third period last night. He was equally dumbfounded as to why fellow Russian and Washington left wing Alexander Ovechkin appeared intent on cutting his promising NHL career short.
"I don't... Ovechkin is a great player," Malkin said. "Every time he hits me, I don't know why."
By Chris Bradford, Times Sports Staff, Oct. 17, 2008:
A few years ago, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin were the best of comrades back in Mother Russia.
Though the two are cordial and respectful of what the other has accomplished, it’s also clear that the two won’t be going out for vodkas soon. When the Washington Capitals took Ovechkin first overall and the Penguins selected Malkin second, the two were inseparable.
Though they are reluctant to say otherwise, it’s apparent that neither is on each other’s Christmas card list. Only Ovechkin and Malkin really know what happened to their friendship but it’s clearly non-existent now. Either that or Russians have a very funny way of showing it.
As he has done in their last few meetings, Ovechkin was taking runs at Malkin at every turn Thursday night in the first of four meetings between the Penguins and Capitals. And if you’ve seen Ovechkin hit before, you know he doesn’t just try to bump a player off the puck. “Ovie” launches every bit of his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame into them. Ovechkin is one of the game’s fiercest hitters, but what he did to Malkin repeatedly was reckless.
And deserving of a stronger response.
More infuriating than blowing a three-goal lead before losing 4-3 Thursday night against Washington was letting Ovechkin have his way physically. Crosby crossed paths with Ovechkin as the team’s left the ice.
“Nothing I can say now,” Ovechkin told reporters when asked what was said.
Granted players of Malkin’s ilk seldom, if ever, drop the gloves but he might want to talk to Eric Godard or Paul Bissonnette about self-defense.
“I don’t know why he comes after me,” Malkin said.
The Penguins-Capitals rivalry may have been dormant in recent years, unlike the 1990s when they met seemingly every spring in the playoffs. But it’s certainly on now. It’s tempting to push the Crosby vs. Ovechkin rivalry but the Malkin-Ovechkin thing is clearly what gets Ovechkin’s blood boiling, though he denies singling out Malkin.
“It’s just a hockey game,” said Ovechkin, who beat Pittsburgh for just the second time in a dozen career games. “I try to hit everybody.”
Ovechkin may have been able to do what Mike Gartner, Peter Bondra and Jaromir Jagr were unable to do by putting hockey at the forefront in our nation’s capital but he’s not going to be getting much love in Pittsburgh.
From Capitals camp:
Corey Masisak, TWT, Oct. 17, 2008:
After verbally sparring with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby at center ice shortly after the final buzzer of a 4-3 victory, his shouts of joy as he exited the ice could be heard at the top of Mellon Arena. Just before he hit the tunnel, Ovechkin cupped his glove to his ear and then egged on the nearby opposing fans to keep heckling.
"We have character," Ovechkin said. "Everybody play for each other. [Matt Bradley] fights, somebody scores, somebody gets hits - everybody pushing hard for the victory. I think today the third period was our best period in the season so far."
With defenseman Tom Poti out because of a pulled groin and Bradley in the dressing room for stitches after his fight with Paul Bissonnette, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau put Sergei Fedorov back on defense and shuffled his forward groups.
He put Fleischmann with Michael Nylander and Alexander Semin in the third period, and the trio provided the offense to erase the three-goal deficit.
"Nothing else was working, quite frankly," Boudreau said.
For much of the night, Ovechkin seemed preoccupied with hitting fellow Russian star Evgeni Malkin. Despite doling out plenty of physical punishment to Malkin, Ovechkin's first shot on net didn't come until there were 45 seconds left in the second period.
At that point the Caps still trailed 3-1, and it appeared Malkin (a goal and two assists) and Crosby (two assists) would be the ones to go home happy. Ovechkin had four more shots in the final period, when Boudreau made an effort to keep his line away from Malkin's.
"He's got to shoot the puck," Boudreau said. "When Pittsburgh and Washington play, they have their own little interwar. Maybe sometimes you do get focused on doing one thing."
Bradley returned to the game, and Ovechkin credited his courage for helping to shift the momentum.
Mike Vogel, Dump 'n Chase, Oct. 17, 2008:
The Caps have come from behind in all three of their wins. Even in their lone loss, they came back from a three-goal deficit to tie the score.
The Caps have what Yogi Berra would call "deep depth." Boyd Gordon sits out the first two games, and now has a goal (game-winner) and an assist in the two games in which he has played. Eric Fehr played his first game of the season last night and picked up a pair of assists in less than 10 minutes of ice time.
Matt Bradley is one tough hombre. We probably already knew that.
Sergei Fedorov on defense makes a huge difference on this team.
Those of us who have long professed our belief that Tomas Fleischmann is a legit NHL forward are on the verge of vindication.
Evgeni Malkin must feel like Navin Johnson in "The Jerk." ("He hates these cans!!")
Four times in 2005-06, four times in 2006-07 and just twice in 2007-08. That's how many times in the last three seasons Alex Ovechkin has gone as many as two consecutive games without collecting a point.
The Caps have now won two straight without Ovechkin scoring; that's only the second time it's happened. The first was back on Mar. 16-18, 2006 when Washington defeated Toronto 5-1 and Tampa Bay 7-1, respectively, without any scoring assistance from No. 8.
Capitals Insider, Oct. 16, 2008:
*Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby crossed paths at the end of the game and exchanged words.Ovechkin, however, didn't want to share what was said.
"Dinner? We weren't talking about dinner. Nothing. What can I say? It's just a hockey game," said Ovechkin, who didn't have a point for the second straight game.